Shiny Shelf

X-Statix #13

By Eddie Robson on 23 October 2003

Unless you know this one simple fact, you may find the new issue of ‘X-Statix’ slightly odd: the character of British pop star Henrietta was supposed to be Princess Diana, before Marvel hastily pulled the storyline. It’s unfortunate because if this issue had featured Diana it would have gone down as one of the greatest, most audacious comic books in Marvel’s history. As it is, it’s merely a very good issue of ‘X-Statix’, which in itself is no small thing to be.

It has perhaps been weakened by Pete Milligan’s creditable boldness, since most writers would have merely created a thinly disguised version of Diana whereas he wanted to use the genuine article. Artistically, this was the right choice. There are jokes in here which are that bit funnier if they’re about Diana, rather than a general satire on the way that public figures present themselves. However, after he was blocked from using the real Diana, Milligan could no longer retreat to the safe route of changing the names: he had to go further and make the character substantially different.

It seems that this must have occurred at a very late stage in the issue’s development, since Mike Allred’s art looks a lot like it was finished and then had to be altered. I’d guess that all he had time to do was to change a couple of frames to take out offending material and then draw long black hair over blonde to turn Diana into Henrietta. Meanwhile, Milligan has altered his script to change the character entirely whilst matching what’s already on the page – not an easy task.

This would explain, for example, why we don’t get a proper introduction to Henrietta: it’s because she was supposed to be a character who needs no introduction. As the issue stands, there really needs to be more groundwork laid as to why she is such a significant figure and why she is considered a threat to the establishment, since popular conspiracy theory no longer fills the gap. We’re just told that Henrietta is very famous and very popular, and we have to take this on trust.

This is no fault of the writer or artist, who have made the best of a bad situation and still produced another great issue. Much of the satire – which hits both Britain and America right on the nose – survives, and there are at least two panels which rank among the funniest I’ve seen all year. But I still can’t shake the feeling that we’ve been robbed.

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By Eddie Robson

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